Patrick White is a giant among the moderns. He offers a completely new experience to readers who are mainly familiar with the recent British novel. They will have encountered little that is comparable to his grand, archetypal themes and grotesque modes, except perhaps in the epic scale and metaphysical panorama of painter-novelists like Wyndham Lewis and Mervyn Peake. Patrick White is himself a frustrated painter and musician. He speaks in his autobiographical essay, ‘The Prodigal Son’, of wishing to produce in his fiction ‘the textures of music, the sensuousness of paint . . . what Delacroix and Blake might have seen, what Mahler and Liszt may have heard’ (p. 157). From such a novelist we cannot expect the social realism and decent, liberal morality of the British tradition or the formal experimentation and extreme self-consciousness of the post-modernist American novel. His mentors are Dickens, Dostoevsky and Melville. His mammoth fictions possess the amplitude of theme and profusion of detail of the great nineteenth-century novel, combined with stream-of-consciousness techniques associated with James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. He also owes a general debt to European expressionism, which taught him the value of grotesque and distorted forms for expressing the irrational in human nature. Yet, in spite of such obvious debts, he has created a wholly individual kind of novel. Few modern writers have found more varied ways of dramatizing the dynamic12 tension between inner and outer worlds or of exploring the quest for meaning in an apparently meaningless universe. He had also created a highly personal style, so that almost any page bears the unmistakable signature of his total world view. His vision is both eclectic and eccentric. It has much in common with the social and moral paradoxes that underlie Blake’s poetry, and owes much, as the epigraphs make clear, to pioneer thinkers of the modern tradition, ranging from Mahatma Gandhi to Paul Eluard. His major novels, unlike so much sceptical recent fiction, move inexorably towards some grand, positive affirmation about life.